Preparing your bike for winter

Preparing your bike for winter

As the wet and cold weather arrives you can either take the approach of storing your bike for winter and moving inside on to the turbo trainer, or you can brave the elements and ride all winter long. My guide today is about preparing your bike for winter riding and how you can make it just as enjoyable as a sunny June ride. 

Main issues of winter riding

Winter riding usually means wetter roads, more debris to navigate around and potentially ice. All of which can often put off the keenest of riders but if you take some of the steps in this guide then hopefully you will be happy to ride deep into winter. 

Preparing your bike effectively means that you can protect yourself from water spray and also significantly reduce the risk of of your ride ending early because of a puncture.

Do I need a winter bike?

My simple answer to this is no. Winter riding will cause your bike to get dirtier quicker and for the expensive components on your bike to be worn down more quickly due to the increase of dirt. This will mean that you need to replace parts on a more frequent basis than if you were just riding in dry weather. 

However, if you are diligent in cleaning your bike after each ride then there is absolutely no reason that you cannot keep riding your favourite bike all year long. There are a few changes I would make to the set up to make it a little more enjoyable for you, but ultimately if you can keep on top of cleaning then ride your bike all year!

Would a separate winter bike be useful?

In an ideal world, a winter bike is a great option. It should be one that has disc brakes, mud guard mounts and clearance for larger tyres. It is also more likely to be heavier than your best bike and so the transition back onto your pride and joy when the summer comes round means it will feel even better. Additionally, a winter bike should have cheaper components on it so that it is possible for you to replace parts as they wear out. 

This Enigma is a great example of a winter bike. It has hydraulic disc brakes for brilliant stopping whatever the weather. Mechanical Shimano Ultegra which is cheaper to replace than its di2 counterpart and mud guard fixings for fantastic protection. Also note the big lights which are key for being seen. (Photo credit Jon Evans)

As quick comparison of the cost of parts, the table below shows why you may want to run lesser components:

 

Shimano 105 R7000

Shimano Dura Ace R9120

Shifters

£184.79

£249.99

Front Derailleur

£29.00

£86.23

Rear Derailleur

£37.99

£162.99

Chain

£18.99

£35.99

Cassette

£34.99

£169.99

Crankset

£105.00

£399.00

(Prices from Wiggle and are correct as of 15.10.2020)

Finally, a winter bike can be useful because it allows you to be a little lazy with the maintenance. You can choose to let it get dirty and not clean it after every ride.  

How to get your bike ready for winter riding

Mudguards

Mudguards are a staple of winter riding and I cannot stress how important they are. It may even be the the club you ride with won’t let you ride in a group without them. A good set of mudguards not only keep you dry but also your friends around you. 

If you bike has mud guard mounts then this will allow for a much more stable and secure fitting to your bike. Additionally, you will be able to get longer mudguards which cover almost the entire circumference of the wheel protecting more of the bike frame and also you. 

Alternatively, you can purchase clip on mudguards which are affixed to the seat says and forks with rubber bands or zip ties, These are often not as long as mounted mudguards and are more susceptible to rubbing against your tyre and changing position as you hit bumps on the road. But, they still do a great job of protecting you.

I appreciate mudguards may ruin the incredible aerodynamic features of your bike and they may not look brilliant. But cycling isn’t just a fashion show. If you can keep riding then that is the most important thing. Riding is better than not riding.

 

Tyres

The risk of puncturing in the winter is increased due to rain washing more debris into the road or more twigs lying around ready to pierce your tyre. It is therefore important to purchase some heavier and more puncture resistant tyres. They will make your bike feel heavier and slower, but they are much more likely to prevent any punctures. Continental 4 Seasons or Gatorskins are good options, but most brands have their own winter specific tyres which I would really suggest in investing. 

Reducing your pressure can also help to give you more grip on the road. I would suggest dropping the pressure by 10psi to normal and this should allow for better contact on the wetter roads.

Going tubeless is also a fantastic option for the winter. Tubeless tyres work by having sealant inside rather than an inner tube. If you get a puncture, the sealant should seal the hole and you can carry on your ride. 

Lights

Invest some good quality lights so you can be seen in the darker days. A rear light which is bright is invaluable and an absolute must for winter riding. Its better to be too bright than not seen at all.

Lubrication

Pay extra attention to lubricating any moving parts. The main focus should be on the chain and the use of a wet lube would be encouraged. A wet lube I much heavier than a dry summer lube and is less likely to be washed off when it starts raining.  

WD-40 is a great lubricant for the smaller springs on derailleurs and also around the shifters. You should regularly re-grease these parts to keep everything in good working order. 

Headset bearings are also a good place to add some heavy duty grease. The headset will take a real battering from road spray and so your bearings can quickly get damaged. Coat them heavily in grease to make them last longer.

 

The Giant Defy is a more comfortable bike in the Giant range and this position can help when speed isn't everything during the winter months. There is also plenty of room to fit larger tyres.

Wheels

For the majority of bikes now, most people are using disc brakes. The perk of disc brakes is that you can ride your best wheels all year round as it is only the disc rotor that receives any wear. Additionally, with wider wheels, even very deep sections wheels are not affected by windier conditions. 

However, if you are using rim brakes then it may be a worthwhile investment in some cheaper alloy wheels. Carbon rims are usually fairly terrible at stopping in the wet and so I would advise using aluminium wheels. Also, as rim brakes wear down the rim it is possible to burn through a set of wheels in just one winter. 

 Even a very good race bike can be made winter ready as shown here. There is no reason you cannot ride your favourite bike all year long.

Bonus round

Using helicopter tape is a great way of protecting your frame. Add strips of it to the down tube, forks and rear side of the seat tube. 

 I hope that this guide has been useful, but let me know if there would be anything you would do differently!